Northeast Kingdom, Andrew Frost, Gravy Studio
Written and Photographed by Laura Storck
On First Friday this month, I was excited to finally visit Gravy Studio, located in Fishtown, which serves as a space that promotes local photographers and their work. As a photographer with a particular fondness for the darkroom, I was especially interested in attending the opening reception for Northeast Kingdom by Andrew Frost. Not only does this body of work contain black and white images captured on film, but I felt compelled to learn more about the mystery surrounding his project.
“These photographs were made in the Northeast area of the state of Vermont, an area known as the Northeast Kingdom. It’s where my family has lived for more than 200 years. My father joined the Navy when he was a teenager as a way to get out of the rural area, and growing up we never went back, though I always imagined what it was like. Over the past several years, I’ve been traveling there, exploring my past, and making photographs.”
Andrew Frost has been making large format photographs within and surrounding the small town of Groton, Vermont, where his relatives have lived for more that two hundred years. In the late 1970’s, his father left and joined the Navy as a teenager. As Andrew was growing up, his family moved constantly, and he had never personally experienced his heritage in Vermont. He always imagined “a magical place, with mountains, rivers, and lakes, and a land of tree houses and caves — the kind of place where kids were free to ride their bikes to the village store.”
Finally in 2010, he visited his roots for the first time and began photographing the world he had often envisioned. Because of his nomadic upbringing, the Northeast Kingdom held a mythical sense of history for Frost as he had been enamored by the stories of his father’s youth. On his initial visit to Vermont, he had instantly felt a deep connection and a sense of belonging. For the next 3 years, Frost had made frequent trips to the area, and brought his 8 x 10 view camera to record and discover his origins on a journey of self-exploration.
Documenting with a view camera was a slow and gradual process, which complimented the way of life in rural Vermont. Some of his subjects are relatives, others are strangers. Frost’s images are beautiful and expressively rich in their black and white tonality. Several of the captures could easily be mistaken as having been made in the distant past – including an image containing elements of a wall photo of a vintage car combined with an antiquated radio, to a photograph of a soldier leaving for boot camp. Before I knew any of the backstory regarding this project, I asked Andrew about the timeline and for details as for when these particular images were captured (as I initially thought that these could have been enlargements made from old negatives).
Andrew Frost explained:
“I don’t know for certain what type of car is in the photo, and as far as I know it’s a clock radio – it’s at my grandmother’s house, and she’s had it for a very long time. The photograph of the soldier, Jeremy, was made the day he left for boot camp. It was the 4th of July in 2011. He’s my aunt’s husband’s sister’s son, and in that area there aren’t a lot of career options. Your choices are mostly limited to farming, ministry, or the military, and he chose to enlist when he finished high school.”
This poignant collection of work initially evokes feelings of melancholy, isolation, sterility, and stagnation in a pastoral land where time appears to be standing still. Yet these observations will eventually transition the viewer towards feelings of hope, beauty, tenderness, and human connection. The exhalation and inner peace that has resulted in this journey of self-realization and reflection are undoubtedly witnessed when viewing Northeast Kingdom.
Northeast Kingdom, Andrew Frost at Gravy Studio is on display through December 31st. Gravy Studio & Gallery, 155 Cecil B. Moore Ave., 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19122, (267) 825-7071, gravy-studio.com, email@example.com
Gravy Studio & Gallery is a collaborative photography workspace and gallery located near the Frankford Arts Corridor. Serving as a multifunctional space that promotes the work of local photographers, opening receptions are held on the First Friday of every month.
Written and Photographed by Laura Storck
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